The range of mycenaean vessel types

From the overview presented in the previous section it is clear that the repertoire of Mycenaean pottery outside the Aegean encompasses a wide range of open and closed pot shapes. In order to identify patterns in the contextual distribution of such a wide range of vessels, they need to be classified in a suitable framework. In a study dealing with the use and appreciation of the vessels themselves, a classi-


Gilmour 1992, 115.

twenty-three analysed sherds fell into the Berbati


Balensi 1980, 485. Open shapes are more abundant

group and could be distinguished from samples from

than closed vessels at Ras Shamra and Minet el-Beida

the Tiryns-Asine region.

as well.


Balensi 1980, 568; Cline 1994, 86-87.


Karageorghis 1998, 1.


Asaro & Perlman 1973, 221. Professor Perlman sug


Hankey 1973, 130; 1997, 194.

gested Messenia as a possible origin (see the discussions


Graziadio 1995, 8-17; Vermeule & Wolsky 1978, 298-

in the same volume on p. 331), but this hypothesis has

299, 300-317; 1990, 381-384.

— to my knowledge — never been investigated.


Balensi 1980, 472; Asaro & Perlman 1973, 222-223;


Hirschfeld 2000, 70-71.

French 1991, 123.


Jones & Vagnetti 1991, 132.


Mommsen et al. 1992, 298-299: twenty-one of the

Vessel Types
Fig. 2.2 Mycenaean vessel types which occur frequently outside Greece (cf. Table I) (scale — ca. 1:20) - Adapted from Mountjoy 1986, 206-218 figs 271-283.

fication according to the purposes for which vessels may be employed seems more appropriate. The uses to which an object such as a Mycenaean pot is put is to a large extent determined culturally and not necessarily inherent in its physical characteristics.42 However, physical characteristics limit the range of cultural interpretations available for a product. The morphology of a ceramic vessel, then, incorporates restrictions defining functions for which it is suitable to be used or not.43 Such possible functions based on the morphology of the Mycenean vessels are the basis of the classification which I will employ in this study. Of course, some vessel types may have fulfilled multiple functions and should properly be classified in more than one category, while individual vessels may change function during their life span. Contextual analyses will reveal the extent to which the use of the Mycenaean pots in the various areas and places in the Mediterranean corresponds to functions indicated by their morphology.

Prudence Rice distinguishes three broad functional categories to classify ceramic vessels: storage, processing and transfer.44 Vessels in the first category are meant to hold substances for longer or shorter periods. Pots in the second category are usually referred to as cooking pots. Ceramic types in the third class serve to transport materials, either over long distances, such as transport amphorae, or over short distances, such as between kitchen and dining table, or between table and mouth. This general scheme has been worked out by Iphigenia Tournavitou for Mycenaean pottery found in four LH IIIB1 houses in the lower town of Mycenae.45 She distinguished six functional categories: storage vessels, pouring vessels, drinking vessels, eating vessels, cooking vessels and accessory vessels. Tournavitou emphasised that the distinction between the different categories is not always clear and that some vessels may have served multiple purposes.

In this study, the first broad category (see Fig. 2.2 and Table I in the tables section of this book) is identical with Tournavitou's first group: storage vessels. These pots are designed to hold liquid or dry substances for longer or shorter periods. They are generally characterised by a narrow neck and by handles to enable carrying.46 The second category concerns dinner vessels and includes Tournavitou's functional groups for pouring, drinking and eating. Open vessels, such as cups and bowls, fall into this class, as well as jugs, suitable for pouring and large open vessels in which substances could be mixed and served.47 A third category consists of domestic vessels, which are generally of coarse clay with large inclusions and suitable for a range of activities in the house, in particular the preparation of food.48 The fourth category consists of a few shapes which cannot be included in the storage, dinner or cooking classes. It concerns vessels such as conical rhyta (FS 199), the ring kernos (FS 197) and zoomorphic askoi and rhyta. These vessels obviously served special functions and have been found in ritual contexts.49 Therefore, such vessels are tentatively labelled ritual vessels. A final category is taken up by terra-cotta figurines.


Miller 1987, 109; Thomas 1991, 28; Van Dongen

age functions as well. The design of most types of jugs,

1996, 12-14.

for example, is specifically aimed to fulfil more than


Sinopoli 1991, 84; Rice 1987, 237-238. Another way

one function, such as to transport water from a well to

to infer the function of ceramics is by looking at the

the house (storage) and to pour liquids (dinner).

physical characteristics of the clay.

48 Sinopoli 1991, 84; Tournavitou 1992, 205-210. True


Rice 1987, 209.

cooking vessels generally have wide openings and par-


Tournavitou 1992.

ticular clay compositions to enable them to withstand


Tournavitou 1992, 205. Vessels designed to hold dry

high temperatures. They are sometimes legged so as to

substances generally have wider necks; see Leonard

be placed above a fire.

1981, 94. Not all storage vessels possess handles.

49 Mountjoy 1993, 124. Religious as well as domestic


A number of vessels in this category could serve stor-

functions have been proposed for the conical rhyton;

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    Why were mycenaean vessels made of clay?
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